My attention was drawn to an article in Fr Robert Hart’s blog – Convert Orthodoxy as Media Echo Chamber and the use made of it by You-Know-Who to portray Anglican / Anglo – Catholics as faux Catholics. I had brushes with Fr Hart in the old Hepworth days of the “Coeti-bus” and various other analogies of public transport from various players in the game. Since then, the Continuum shows little more than Fr Hart’s sermons, which of course are very good and edifying. Occasionally an article like this one emerges when we are reminded about the “two one-true churches”.
It is more an American problem than anything else. Our friend in California portrays his “faux” Catholics as hipsters, or people who follow certain fashions, who perhaps lack originality of thought, or who do not conform to his middle-class standards.
We Europeans are wont to quip about Americans lacking culture, but the same problem is here too. Europeans started being faux Americans a long time ago, and Americans remained on the whole quite religious. The USA is about the unique exception of the proportion between consumer capitalism and the extinction of religion, faith or spirituality. I suppose you get the same level of proselytism by Roman Catholic and Orthodox converts in cities like London. It happened to me and my fifteen years as a Roman Catholic were a curse (though there were some blessings). Europe still has that Cujus Rex ejus religio. You practice the religion you were born into, or none at all. Even New Age and the cults are out of fashion these days. Materialism and über-rationalism are still “in”.
Some people get so worked up about what other people are up to. People do many things that make me squirm like taking drugs and getting tattoos, or listening to infernal machine noises that some call “music” – but who am I to stop them. They and I belong to different worlds. They and I have different values and priorities.
One thing I suggest is more independence of spirit. Perhaps you have to be autistic to understand it. We don’t have to live and march in lockstep with other people. We can live our own lives whilst respecting the freedom and good of others. If religion is fashion or something to define our outward appearance, then it won’t do us much good.
My Baptist sister wrote to me a short while ago to contrast a “relationship with Jesus” and “religion” in its meaning as a code of observances and “works”. I don’t relate to that somewhat simplistic dualist distinction, but there is a point – the relationship with God and the Incarnate Word and our knowledge of God and ourselves. That certainly is the priority over outward observances and traditions. Christ laboured the point as he fustigated the Scribes and Pharisees. C.S. Lewis made a wonderful point as he came up with the idea of Mere Christianity – the core of beliefs and practices we all have in common.
It is insulting to call the Church I belong to faux because it is not in communion with the Pope and within the norms of their canon law. The word faux is the French word for false or fake or bogus. Used in English, it seems to mean the other French word pastiche or imitation, like a modern house built in an old style. It can be used in a very derogatory way, or it can be a good thing. The nineteenth century saw the building of some very fine neo-gothic churches in the wake of the Romantic movement. I see nothing wrong with appealing to the past for good ideas and a reference when we are lost and confused with modernity.
Whichever Church we belong to, I think is unkind and even cruel to disturb members of others communities to get them into our pews instead of theirs on the pretext of our
boutique church being better than theirs. Again, institutional Christianity comes up against the same pierre d’achoppement as in the eighteenth century. It has had its day, unless we find what it was really about – which is not power / money structures. Proselytism and self-righteousness eventually lead to the Déesse Raison in the place of the statue of Our Lady and the guillotine in the town square, because when the salt loses its savour, it is fit only to be rejected and thrown away.
It is about the intrinsic value of each and every being of creation and its reconciliation with the Creator through inner knowing and love. Let us, each one of us, reconcile ourselves with ourselves, and thereby with God. Then perhaps there is some hope.
When Fr. Robert Hart says of Christopher Cox, “He wrote this after having been in a congregation that departed from Anglicanism altogether for that illusive and greener grass on the other side of the fence” it is not clear to me if he means Mr. Cox himself remained while the majority of the congregation departed from Anglicanism, or if Mr. Cox first departed with them, and now has returned. Was he a ‘convert’? Is he a ‘revert’? Do ‘reverts’ often have the fervour one finds (stereo)typically attributed to ‘converts’? He strikes he as having some such sort of fervour – and his modus seems curiously ‘unAnglican’ in one weighty sense of ‘Anglican’, a sense (as far as I can see) exemplified variously by Richard Hooker, John Donne, Richard Baxter, William Warburton, and C.S. Lewis (for some examples)!
Dear David and Father Chadwick,
My former priest and congregation swam the Bosporus together while I visited family out of town. I received only a phone call. I never entered the Eastern Church. This article was first promulgated when a few converts founded an aggressive radio show to shame ACs into “going over.” Most of us lack endowments and even buildings; one more mass defection will bring us to our knees. Eastern hierarchs have taken this as a sign that they may steal sheep without scruple. Some still worship in buildings we gave to their ancestors when they were refugees from Communism. It’s a crying shame.
Can you explain what is ‘unAnglican’about my ‘modus’? If I’m fervent, it’s only because there’s no other choice now. To my knowledge, I’m the only Anglo-Catholic in history who remained Anglican after his entire parish “went over.” Further, I’ve worked in media, so I thought it best to restrict my comments to the exposure of unethical PR tactics, not theology.
The Blue Flower turned out very nicely!
One of the things you did not mention is that the so-called western rite is simply either a property grab (on the part of Antioch) and a bait-and-switch on the part of both Antioch and the Russians. Of the two parishes in Nevada who have gone Russian western rite, one is in the process of installing an ikonostasis whilst the other has invested a tidy sum into paper ikons to plaster every free space on the walls (perhaps they will start now to do the ceiling and floor?). It is a liturgical joke. The leader of the Russian bunch, who besides looking as if the riasa (Roosky cassock) was made to be a fitted garment, runs around, as do all of his clergy, completely vested as if he had just escaped from 19th century Holy Mothersky Russia. His parish in Florida, supposedly western rite, not only has a full ikonostasis, but curtains to be drawn across the royal doors as well (one can only suspect that this is an ancient tradition of the Sarum use [Fr Anthony please take notice]). It is all simply a comedy.
Interestingly, there are heavy curtains at the entrance of the choir at York Minister, under the big stone choir screen with the organ sitting on top of it, and they are drawn just before Mattins and Evensong. However, they are more to do with protecting the ageing canons and others from draughts of air, especially in the winter. Big cathedrals can be cold places! I attended a few liturgies in London in the 1980’s, the Greeks in Moscow Road and the Russians in Ennismore Gardens. If I remember rightly, the Greeks didn’t draw the curtains. Perhaps the Greek priest caught a cold more frequently! 🙂
Thank you for this comment and the complement on the Blue Flower. I wrote quite a lot about Western Orthodoxy as an expression of modern Romanticism – at least in the case of the late Dr Ray Winch.
I too “reverted” to Anglicanism after 15 years as a RC convert and deacon ordained in Italy. We all go through exciting times of life, and other times when we despair of human nature and wonder whether we are nothing more than a failed experiment. I don’t think you, any more than I, would consider looking for proselytes to join our Anglican chapels. I don’t here in France, and even my own wife doesn’t care about religion – not even enough to return to the RC Church which in France is just about dead. It is almost better to leave people in invincible ignorance in their own lives than destroy any happiness they have. What an indictment of institutional Christianity!
I didn’t know/recall (?!) that you are also chriscontramundum (my cursor not having ‘transited’ your little picture within certain memory!).
Thanks for the additional detail, and additional comments. (I’ve now read everybody’s up to “7:33 am” this morning.)
What struck me as “curiously ‘unAnglican’” in the qualified sense I tried to suggest, were expressions such as “CO is not the Christian faith, but a Western take on Eastern Church history that sounds like it instead”, “he now believes in a narrow interpretation of Church history, not the Christian religion”, “CO isn’t Gospel, it’s 4Chan spirituality”, “They won’t be entering Orthodoxy”, and “CO is a biased version of Church history that replaces the Christian Faith in the minds and hearts of most converts to the Eastern Church.”
These all seem in saddening and unpersuasive contrast with, for example, Hooker, when he says (Laws II.i.10), “For even as the Apostle doth say of Israel that they are in one respect enemies but in another beloved of God; in like sort with Rome we dare not communicate concerning sundry her gross and grievous abominations, yet touching those main parts of Christian truth wherein they constantly still persist, we gladly acknowledge them to be of the family of Jesus Christ”. Should “a Western take on Eastern Church history”/”a biased version of Church history” and “4Chan spirituality” be rightly deemed to be among “sundry […] gross and grievous abominations”, yet I do not see how it follows that that cannot be combined with “the Christian Faith”, “the Christian religion”, the “Gospel”, as found in “CO” as indeed part of “Orthodoxy”.
I would disagree with Fr. Anthony in not considering “looking for proselytes to join our Anglican chapels” – I would expect Anglicans, Orthodox, and those in communion with the Pope (among many – or all – (non-Chacedonian and Protestant) others) insofar as they are convinced they are freer of error and more faithful to “the full deposit of the faith”, to hope others would join them, and labour to that end (with whatever range of prudential practical aspects).
You seem quite Anglican (in the sense I intended), if I understand you aright, in promoting attention to “arguing with my interpretation of Christianity” being distinct from “arguing with the Catholic Faith”.
As you point out, Anglicanism has a long history of reminding us that “mere Christianity” exists anywhere two or three are gathered to make their supplications in Christ’s Name, “granting us in this world knowledge of [His] truth, and in the age to come life everlasting.” To be clear, I recognize Easterners as brothers in Christ. This article isn’t a polemic against the East, but against a very unhealthy version of Eastern spirituality that originates with converts who usually came from cults. When they enter the Eastern Church, they go right back to their old habits: They bully, harass and abuse people into joining “the one true faith,” and spread conspiracy theories. On social media, they even troll Anglicans they have never met! If they have saving faith, and I hope they do, it is rarely on display. Strong words were necessary.
Like you, I believe that Anglicanism should be seeking and making converts wherever we can. Like Father Chadwick, I believe that those who are already within the Church catholic should be the last ones we seek to proselytize.
While I hope that God gives the converts “repentance and better minds,” they are responsible for grievous scandal. As far as ecclesiastical groups, which I doubt God cares for, we must all be reminded that every work under the sun is “vanity and vexation of spirit.”
Thank you for the further clarification!
I was prepared to think (to apply Fr. Anthony’s words) “It is more an American problem than anything else” that you were specifically addressing, and did not pause to look up (and have not done so yet) orthodoxwest.com, Rev. Mark Rowe, or Anglican Radio.
But I have had a lot of good experiences with people in America, England, and the Netherlands, whom I can only describe as ‘Convert Orthodox’, including Metropolitans Anthony and Kallistos, (then Father) Basil Osborne, Nancy and Jim Forest, and (in (blog) correspondence) Fr. Aidan Kimel, to name a widely recognizable few (I enjoyed Andrew Louth’s lectures when he was Chaplain of Worcester but have not had direct contact with him since he became Orthodox) – but also lots of (largely less-well-known) clerical and lay folk.
And so, expressions like “CO is a biased version of Church history that replaces the Christian Faith in the minds and hearts of most converts to the Eastern Church” and “The former Anglican also learns that most of his fellow converts, whom he meets on the doorstep of the Eastern Church, have left the very fringes of Fundamentalist Protestantism or a New Age cult”, seemed (and seem) far too sweeping – and therewith ineffective – generalizations.
Matters relating to what Fr. Robert Hart calls the “two one-true churches” are, (I dare to say) of course, going to be encountered in any mix of “Ethnic Orthodox” and ‘Convert Orthodox’ along whatever spectrum of degrees of each in the mix – at least, that has always been my experience. And I would expect “traditional Anglicans [to be] widely circulat[ing] a serious case for their existence” (as I would expect of all Churches considering themselves orthodox: incidentally, in my experience a lot of Dutch Reformed folk of various (mutually agonistic) Churches would in the first instance assume they were being referred to by any word about ‘the orthodox’ or ‘orthodox Christians’).
My having known Ray Winch was illuminating at a time in my life when I considering going Orthodox and western rite. Many become Roman Catholics and Orthodox and mature in their faith, making it something internal and all-transfiguring. It does not remain on the surface like a fashionable tattoo or a garment. I have little experience of converts being “faux” Italians, Greeks or Russians. Some men grow beards. I grew my hair but for reasons of personal taste. Newman’s conversion in the 19th century was radically differently motivated from that of Manning or Faber. Within Anglicanism, I saw people moving from the middle-of-the-road “Church of England” of their upbringing to become a caricature of high-camp high Anglicanism. Perhaps I followed that route myself as an immature boy. When one goes too far down a road, the opposite reaction sets in, and we become unbalanced. This is why I exclude proselytism in my life as a priest. I believe it is best for people to discover things on their own and integrate them into their lives. How would it be if we had French people becoming “faux” English and fashioning themselves after stereotypes? The idea is absurd.
What is dreadful is what has disturbed people and made it impossible to continue in their Churches of origin, whether Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Moravians, Methodists, whatever. It is true that Christ condemned mediocrity, but the tendency now is to aim for a church of the pure, an almost Jansenist notion of an elite elect. I have been tempted the same way. Sometimes Christianity is really difficult to defend!
You’re right. Since the audience for this essay has expanded beyond the originally-intended readers, I should have added: All Orthodox converts have converted, but not all who have converted go on to believe in CO. The best expositor of this idea is David Bentley Hart, an Orthodox theologian and convert who gave the address “Orthodoxy in America and America’s Orthodoxies.” As you point out, Westerners have entered the Eastern Church and grown in faith there. I have no doubt, and no right to question, that your convert friends are good Christians (and more observant of fasts than I am)!
Thank you! Intended audience is always a difficult matter! How much background and context can one safely assume, how much must one supply in detail? (I was wondering how David Bentley Hart entered the picture – but your epigraph supplied a reference one could follow up as opportunity arose.)
My convert friends were certainly more observant (in a down-to-earth fashion) of fasts than I have been before or after I was, e.g., taking turns preparing meals when living amongst them in St. Gregory’s House – which, however, stood me in good stead as a sudden vegan when I was long being cautious after the original announcements concerning transmissible spongiform encephalopathy!
This posting seems pertinent (https://lifeondoverbeach.wordpress.com/2010/06/05/why-i-am-not-orthodox-2/):
Why I am not Orthodox.
5 JUNE 2010
tags: Anglican communion, clergy abuse, corruption, Eastern Orthodox Church, ethno phyletism, etho-centrism, hierarchy, OCA, Orthodox Church, Orthodox Church in America, pastoral authority, Western culture
Two years ago I resigned as the Rector of an Episcopal Church, left a decade long priesthood, renounced my orders, and along with the rest of my family became Eastern Orthodox. The particular jurisdiction that we became a part of was the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). I was sent by my Archbishop to an Orthodox Seminary in Pennsylvania for a year.
My family gave up a great deal so that we could become Orthodox. We didn’t expect to be congratulated for that, but I didn’t expect the cold reception that we got from many either. We were ready to embrace Orthodoxy wholeheartedly, but never really felt like we were embraced back. The Sacraments that I had administered during my ten years of priestly ministry in the Episcopal Church were repeatedly characterized as being without any validity for the people I served. But, despite the arrogance, we found the OCA to be every bit as dysfunctional an institution, in it’s own way, as is the Episcopal Church. There seemed to be a disconnect between the sublime theology of the Church Fathers and our actual experience in the OCA. The reality we found in the OCA as an institution included an ethnocentric insularity and xenophobia among a great many ethnic Russians; anti-Semitism; a latent fundamentalism among a great many of the converts; widespread corruption and abuse of power in the hierarchy; and a good deal of hateful anti-Americanism among Russian immigrant priests and monks (As well as some American ones). There were some disturbing things that we saw and experienced while in the OCA that caused some members of my family to struggle with their faith in ways that they never had to do while we remained Anglican. That is perhaps the most pertinent reason that we decided a few months ago to return to the Anglican Communion. But still it was a gut wrenching decision to make.
I was drawn to the Orthodox Faith because of it’s faithfulness to the ancient understandings of the Faith. My faith has been informed to a great extent by what I’ve learned from Orthodox sources. In the Western view it is often said that in Adam we all sinned. In the Orthodox understanding however, original sin is not about an inherited guilt. It is instead about the consequences of living in a world that now is sinful. Because of that difference the Orthodox understand sin not in terms of transgression and penalty, but in the terms of bondage and sickness. I believe that this is a truer and healthier way to approach what both east and west are trying to describe. Because of that, my understanding of what salvation is, is transformative rather than judicial. The real object of salvation is God bring about an inner change in us. The Atonement is about recapitulation, rather than appeasement. In the words of Ephesians 1:10, “God’s purpose is, in the fulness of the times, to sum up,” or recapitulate, “all things in Christ, the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth…” The need for Atonement is not a need to satisfy God’s wrathful desire to punish, but rather the need for Atonement is the need to recreate in us the image of God that we had lost because of our loss of communion with Him, and to free us from our bent toward sin. Theosis is a central part of Orthodox belief and one that I believe to be true. Theosis is the process of our coming into communion with God. It is what many are talking about when they talk about salvation. Human beings were created to share in the life of the Blessed Trinity. As Athanasius once said, “The Son of God became man, that we might become god.” It is through our participation in the divine life that transforms us into the likeness of Christ. Our salvation then is not as a one time act. It is not about us getting our ticket punched. It is instead about a lifetime of our progressing into a closer relationship with our God.
There is nothing keeping me from believing as I do and being Anglican. There are others who do, though not many. The Orthodox Church is however, at least as I have encountered it in the OCA, very defensive and aggressively anti-Western whenever talking about differences that exist between the two, no matter how small, no matter how long ago. I’m sorry but I’m simply not interested in adopting as my own some old grudge about the Fourth Crusade, or about Eastern-Rite Roman Catholicism in the Ukraine. The Eastern Orthodox can be very enthusiastic grudge-holders.
When I first became Orthodox I didn’t think that that cultural differences would matter so much. I still don’t think that it ought to matter so much. The Christian Faith calls individuals out of their nations and tribes and into the Ekklesia. and the Ekklesia, the congregation of the faithful, transcends any nation, or tribe, or race, or culture.
That is not a truth that seems to have been fully realized everywhere though. I have found that nation and culture matters a great deal to a great many monastics, priests and bishops in the OCA. Oftentimes it seems as if it is the most important thing. And that is why I could not find a home there. I am not the one choosing to be American, or Western, over being Christian. I find instead that among other Orthodox I am suspect unless I hate my own country and live as if I’m a member of someone else’s.
As I look around at the mostly eastern European congregations that are gathered in any Orthodox Church during the Divine Liturgy, I see that it is most often said at least partly in Slavonic, Greek or some other eastern language. It is obvious to me that, for those congregations, their ethnic identity and their being Christian are practically co-terminus. Perhaps that is not entirely an avoidable thing. The Gospel is taken to people who are formed in a particular culture and the unchangeable truths of that good news find expression in ways that make sense to people living in that culture — be it Russian, or Greek, — or American, or British, or Chinese, or whatever. Our baptism into Christ transcends our local loyalties and identities. It does not, however, eradicate them.
I do not now belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church because I am not culturally Eastern, and I am unwilling and unable to live my life as a pretend Russian, or a pretend Greek. The faults of the Western Churches are the faults of Western culture. Eastern Orthodox Churches suffer from the faults of Eastern cultures. In the words of John Henry Newman, ”the Nation drags down its Church to its own level.” Simply put, I was born and raised in the West so I am a Western Christian, I don’t think that I have any real option to be anything other than that. So I have returned to trying to live out the Apostolic Faith as best I can in the place in which I was raised and live. The Eastern Orthodox world, despite the many things that it has to commend it, nevertheless has it’s own profound problems and running to it is not the answer to all that is wrong in the Western Church.
Thank you, Dale, for this. I remember going through my university days in the 1980’s and meeting Dr Ray Winch in Oxford for the first time. I saw similarities between the old Oxford Movement and perhaps a new Oxford Movement and the flowering of Western Orthodoxy. It was not to be. Ray Winch eventually “half” returned to Roman Catholicism and died a disillusioned man. I never swam the Bosporus or the Volga either.
I don’t think any “mainstream” Church is a good idea. Most independent and “Old” Catholic churches have failed, gone along with modern identity politics or wandered elsewhere. The Anglican Continuum had its troubles but now seems to have recovered and the movement of unity and reconciliation is going well. Above all, we are coherent Church “units” with synods, diocesan bishops, modest ways to train priests to a small budget and – above all – small parishes in which everyone knows each other.
The kind of Christianity most inculturated into the Anglo-Saxon culture is Anglicanism, a form of medieval Catholicism without the flamboyance or authoritarianism of post-Tridentine Roman Catholicism. There are also Roman Catholicism and Protestantism for those born into those traditions. Some find their way into Anglicanism, not because of “true-church” bullying, but being welcomed into something that makes sense. Strict “Prayer Book” Anglicanism is more self-conscious in America than England. I think there is room for Sarum / Prayer Book Anglicanism as well as the kind of Anglo-Catholicism that was designed for union with Rome by gradual acculturation.
Culture is something that cannot be denied. Some people can find being “faux” Russians or Italians appealing. In the end, many of us just want to be ourselves according to our different ethnicities. Being Anglo-Saxon seems to be out of fashion these days, yet we exist and also have our identity alongside Hispanics, Africans, Asians and others. It is a fact that Christianity is lived differently in different cultures. We need to be true to our own, yet loving and respecting other cultures and ethnicities.
The article confirms my experience. You’re probably right in a lot of ways about the WR being a grab for property, but there are a lot of sincere people in it who produce a great deal of devotional literature, and even WR monastic communities. Each vicariate has dozens of parishes, and I don’t think it’s possible for the Easterners to get rid of them anymore, unless the all die out for lack of young people (which I sadly expect many to do). And while WR churches are prone to be precious, in a very Anglo-Catholic way, about incorporating Byzantine icons, I am familiar with both parishes, and would be surprised if the clergy went off the deep end. How do you come to know them?
Would you like it if I posted links to the Blue Flower on some Anglican discussion boards? You may get more potential contributors.
In the seventies of the last century, in Italy, there dozens of western rite Russian Orthodox communities, with more than 10,000 faithful. It was all closed down by the Moscow Patriarchate in a matter of weeks and the people told to return to the modernist Roman Church (I was there when this happened).
The largest modern group of western rite Orthodox was in the Philippines, they have all been forced to go Byzantine. So, yes the Byzantines can, and will close it all down whenever they want to. In both Antioch and the Russians the western rite has no real canonical or ecclesial existence, they are permitted to exist only as a personal opinion from a given hierarch in charge at a specific point in time. The western rite attempt in England learnt this the hard way when they thought that the western rite had patriarchal approval, only to find that the approval only went so far as specific bishops in specific geographical areas, and when those bishops changed so did support of the western rite (The same thing happened in Australia). Amongst the Russians the only support is the present Archbishop, when he is gone, so will go the western rite and in a decree of July 2013 they already openly stated that the eventuality of all such communities is to become completely Eastern rite.
The publicatins of which you speak are those produced usually by a single cleric in Colorado, none of them have official approval. What has been produced by the Russians is simply a-historical liturgical fantasy.
Honestly, I fail to see how erecting an ikonostasis in supposed western rite parish, is not already an indication of going off the deep end.
I’m sorry to hear about the Church in Italy and elsewhere. I didn’t know that the situation was that bad; but then I should no longer be surprised at the sadism of those whose bones will pave the way to Hell, as St. Chrysostom said. Your warnings about their canonical status, and that Lancelot Andrewes Press is private, are duly noted. As for St. Columba’s, Fernley, the rood screen was built in the spirit of pre-schism Western architecture – though as you point out, their motive for doing so is dead wrong.
You are welcome to put out links to the Blue Flower, but don’t be surprised if not everybody likes it.
I will, then. There’s no use letting something like that go unnoticed by people who can benefit from it!
Dear Fr. Anthony,
Thank you for your thoughtful comments of 22 July at 9:03 am and 24 July at 11:45 am! (I may try to return to some elements of them. I certainly benefitted from getting to know Ray when I did, and his and my mutual friend, Terry Barker, who was working on Richard Hooker, and is a sort of fervent Anglican ‘revert’ – who went on to publish things with Archbishop Lazar’s Synaxis Press, if I’m not mistaken.)
In some connection with ‘proselytism’ and related terms and what it/they can be understood to mean, but also with “ecclesiastical groups” in broad and varied senses, I was struck by two recent articles by Sandro Magister with reference to the Ukraine:
‘In Ukraine, Between Orthodox and Catholic, Francis Sides With Moscow’ (8 June), and
‘”Oremus” For Peace in the Middle East. But For Ukraine, Among the Orthodox the War Is On’ (5 July)
(both in the original Italian and English translation at his blog).
I found this article and discussion helpful. I belong to a parish whose liturgical tradition has been trashed by the Diocese of Sydney wrecking ball, and it helped me realise that whatever the answer is, it isn’t Orthodoxy, even the Western rite.